Pasta with Seared Cauliflower and Garlic

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You may remember Christopher Kimball from Cook’s Illustrated, who went on to produce his own show call Milk Street. This recipe from his book Tuesday Nights with Milk Street was an instant hit with my friends, despite my skepticism with using anchovies and the amount of garlic in the dish. Don’t let the same fear stop you from trying this easy, fresh-tasting pasta dish!  

I used BC Hazelnuts in place of the recommended pistachios and they were perfect. The garlic and anchovies blend together to give this dish a huge flavour boost, and despite my hesitation, didn’t impart a fishy flavour to the dish. Using pasta water to thicken the sauce keeps it a healthy dinner option. You’ll love having this guest-worthy recipe available to serve to family and friends. 

You could use another brand of pasta for this dish, but I highly recommend picking up a bag of Mancini Italian Pasta! The simplicity of the dish allows this high quality pasta to really stand out. Find out more about what sets this pasta apart, and why we carry it at our market in Abbotsford, BC!

Ingredients

12 ounces penne, or other short pasta

Salt and pepper

4 tbsp. olive oil, divided

⅓ cup shelled BC hazelnuts, coarsely chopped 

1 small cauliflower, about 2 ½ lbs, cored and cut into 1-inch florets

6 medium garlic cloves, minced (the original recipe calls for 8, which seemed excessive to me, although imported garlic is much milder than our local garlic) 

 

2 tbsp. minced anchovy fillets, plus 2 tbsp anchovy oil (if the brand of anchovies you use doesn’t have 2 tablespoons oil to spare, you can substitute with more olive oil or reduce to 1 tbsp)

2 tsp. fresh rosemary, minced

½ tsp. red pepper flakes

4 tbsp. salted butter, divided

1 tbsp. finely grated lemon zest, plus 2 tbsp. lemon juice

¾ cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped, for garnish

Method

In a large pot, bring salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until very al-dente, 2 minutes less than the recommended time as it will continue to cook when you add it to the dish.  Reserve 1 cup of the cooking water, then drain pasta and set aside.  

Meanwhile, heat a large skillet to medium heat, add chopped hazelnuts and dry toast until fragrant, stirring often, for about 3-4 minutes. Place hazelnuts aside in a bowl.  

In the same skillet, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil until shimmering. Add ½ of the cauliflower, and ¼ tsp each salt and pepper. Cook, stirring until light golden brown and crisp, about 5 minutes.  Transfer to a medium bowl. Add another 2 tablespoons oil to the pan, heat until shimmering, and repeat searing with remaining cauliflower, remove cauliflower to bowl.  

Make sure pan is still hot, and add garlic, anchovies and anchovy oil, rosemary, red pepper flakes, and 2 tablespoons butter to the pan. Cook, stirring one to two minutes until garlic is softened. It’s important to keep watch and stir so the garlic doesn’t burn, as that will give your dish a bitter flavour.  

Return all the cauliflower to the pan and continue cooking and stirring for another 2-3 minutes until anchovies disintegrate. Add ½ cup pasta cooking water and bring to a boil. Add pasta and remaining 2 tablespoons butter.  Cook, tossing until the sauce has thickened and coated the pasta, about 1 minute. If it looks too dry, continue adding from the remaining ½ cup pasta water until it is to your liking. Remove from heat.  

Stir in lemon juice and all but 1 tablespoon of the hazelnuts, taste and adjust salt and pepper.  Transfer to a serving platter and sprinkle with remaining nuts, parsley and lemon zest.